HBCU’s have always been involved in STEM and STEAM, the
paradigm of change is from the 19th century to 21st century
integration and application.” William Jackson
Adjunct Instructor Edward Waters College
HBCU’s like Edward Waters College are empowering their
students with new concentrations in educational disciplines that
have traditionally been taught from a past grown from centuries
of slavery, the focus is to apply these areas to 21st century
applications in the context of STEAM / STEM / STREAM
HBCU’s have served to educate and empower thousands of free
slaves so that they have the skills to function and excel in
professions that capitalize in areas that slaves were already skilled
in. Fields like agriculture, horticulture, animal care and others
were physically demanding, but the cognitive applications were
just as important.
The statement that education is the best economic development tool
rings true from slavery even to today’s 21st century era of technology
innovation and integration. HBCU’s primary responsibility was to educate
freed slaves to read and write. The skills they had learned during slavery
did not require a formal education so slaves had to learn and understand
when and where to plant and harvest crops, slaves had to learn how to
manage livestock either for application in working or for food. Slaves had
to understand the patterns of weather in order to plant, manage and harvest
at peak times to maximum time to make sure the harvest could make the
most money for the plantation owner.
Taken from the web site: About Slavery – Ending Slavery natural and raw
materials where planted and harvested by slaves; cotton, sugar, coffee,
timber, and fish to name a few items. These commodities served to make
southern and northern slave owners wealthy and active in global product
chains. Just as today there was a global market for products, in the 21st
century with technology other areas are more lucrative and profitable.
The brutality of slavery cannot be denied, but through this time Blacks
learned skills that empowered them with knowledge to teach new
generations. This empowerment of educational knowledge and skill
helped in the application of learning which is still being applied by HBCU’s
that were established by many Black and Quaker churches;
understood that with the stopping of slavery, free slaves and their families
needed to learn and apply skills to feed their families and compete for jobs
with whites and other nationalities that were making the United States of
America their home..
HBCU’s were created with a purpose, that purpose started in 1837,
26 years before the end of slavery. Quaker philanthropist; Richard
Humphreys, founded the Institute for Colored Youth with the goal to train
free blacks to become teachers. The value of an educated person was even
seen in the 1800s.
Because many white institutions did not admit Blacks, HBCUs were the
option for Blacks interested in attending college and earning a certificate or
license of education. During the early years of their development the early
Black colleges were a source of respect and pride
So important were HBCU’s that the low levels of reading had to be
addressed first. Public education for Blacks was not available in the South,
these institutions had to provide preparatory courses at the elementary
and high school levels for their students, this practice is still being used
today in the 21st century, showing the importance of early education in PreK
and that Black parents need to be involved and active in their children’s
learning starting at birth.
Blacks and even poor whites learned the basics of reading, writings and
arithmetic first. They had to use these opportunities because during slavery
if Blacks were caught learning how to read they were beaten and even killed.
HBCU’s were training students for literacy, but also for teaching and the
professions that require these skills. The changes in technology at the times
required early HBCU’s to adapt their teaching, noted educators like Booker T.
Washington of the Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) moved to where
Blacks focused on the practical skills of manual labor to better suit them for
the work that was available. Working with their hands, but applying skills
learned from slavery was the most practical way to apply skills Blacks had
become experts in.
There were over 100 HBCU’s across the country and they still provide a unique
educational experience for not just Blacks, but other cultures. HBCUs are focused
by the need for the unique educational environments that only an HBCU can provide.
Just because Black students and students of color can attend traditional white
institutions does not mean they should, not because of perceived levels of educational
value, there is still the need for cultural connection in the educational systems in
higher education across America. I’m a product of South Carolina State University
and the value of my educational experience has prepared me for the changes in
technology and in the field of education as it applies culturally.
Appling STEAM and STEM in world markets has made higher education and
technical education a necessary. Even President Obama understood the importance
of HBCU’s with the HBCU initiative he signed. $103 million for STEM programs at
the National Science Foundation are available. HBCU’s must have qualified and
experienced educators in these areas teaching students. The focus also must be
diversify in its student body because global competition has increased and the
available dollars in research and development programs that help fund many
higher education institutions is diminishing or unreachable for HBCU’s that
traditionally do not conduct research on levels of other institutions. If HBCU’s are
to survive this must change soon. HBCU’s need increased commitment to conducting
high-quality research on matters that have negative impacts on African Americans
and on other peoples of color in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora and
even in Asia. The academic gaps between Black students and white, Asian
American and even continental African peers must change for Blacks students
in the United States to be prepared academically and able to compete for careers
not just jobs.
Black students must be encouraged to learn how to conduct research, apply the
scientific and engineering practices that should be introduced in elementary, middle
and high schools. As a STEAM – Engineering and Technology teacher a priority for
inner city, at risk and challenged schools is to “show” these youth that they do have
options for careers, they do have opportunities to be engaged
in Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics. These areas are not hard,
but require a new way of thinking. There needs to be student enthusiasm in the
laboratory environments of high schools and higher education because much of
innovative laboratory work is student driven.
HBCU students in STEAM and STEM emulate research scientists during their years of
learning, this is where dreams are developed and goals set for future careers.
Teaching Engineering this summer of 2014 with the Black Male Explorers Program
and Social Media/ Technology with Learn2Earn College Experience, I’m still learning
that too many Black students and students of color and their parents must dream of
achieving beyond the stereotypes of typical careers of service, entertainment and
sports. Taken from HBCUs to BCUs, August 3, 2010, Roy L. Beasley. “Black students
(and members of other groups afflicted by prejudice) underperform whenever they
perceive (rightly or wrongly) that other people expect them to do poorly just because
they are black.” Black students must see themselves being successful in STEAM and
STEM careers not threatened by them. The stereotype threat is strong in STEM and
STEAM careers. Black students are too quick to deny these areas as “too hard,”
“too nerdy,” and even “too white.”
Parents need to expose their children to the libraries, museums, learning centers
and cultural centers of their communities to show their children that Blacks have
and are important in innovative areas of STEAM / STEM / CSTREAM / STREAM.
William Jackson, M.Ed.
South Carolina State University ’85
Adjunct Teacher – Teacher Education
Edward Waters College
STEAM / STEM / STREAM / CSTEAM
at Andrew Robinson Elementary School in Duval County Public Schools
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